ALL too often Pakistan receives a violent shock, reminding society of the perils of letting hate and intolerance grow without check. On Monday, Dr Naeemuddin Khattak, an Ahmadi professor, was gunned down in Peshawar after an altercation with a colleague over religious issues. This is the latest in a growing series of troubling incidents in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa capital in which members of the Ahmadi community have been targeted. In July, an American of Pakistani origin reportedly belonging to the religious group was shockingly murdered in court by a teenager, while last month a mob laid siege to an Ahmadi family’s residence.

This is, of course, not the first incident of its kind. Ahmadis in this country have faced persecution for decades, while the state has done little to bring those responsible for crimes against the community to justice. Unfortunately, the anti-Ahmadi violence ties up with the overall growing extremist tendencies in society — nurtured since the 1980s — that are now manifesting themselves in hideous ways. Whether it is the targeting of Ahmadis, or any other individual/group that is seen to be ‘deviant’ by the self-professed guardians of religious mores in Pakistan, this pattern of violence must be confronted by the state before it leads to the mainstreaming of vigilantism. Over the past few weeks, avowed sectarian groups with a history of violence have staged massive marches across major cities of Pakistan. This shows that while they may have been lying low for the past few years, they can mobilise at very short notice should the need arise. The KP government needs to do more to protect the lives and properties of Ahmadis living in the province. Additionally, the state must send a very clear message that there is zero tolerance for vigilantism and cold-blooded murder. If this toxic trend is not forcefully checked, we may soon return to the old days when targeted killings and attacks on places of worship were occurring with alarming frequency across the country.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2020

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